Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS5696428 A
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 08/485,517
Publication dateDec 9, 1997
Filing dateJun 7, 1995
Priority dateJun 7, 1995
Fee statusPaid
Publication number08485517, 485517, US 5696428 A, US 5696428A, US-A-5696428, US5696428 A, US5696428A
InventorsNicholas F. Pasch
Original AssigneeLsi Logic Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus and method using optical energy for specifying and quantitatively controlling chemically-reactive components of semiconductor processing plasma etching gas
US 5696428 A
Abstract
An apparatus for producing a plasma suitable for semiconductor processing at pressures in the low millitorr range. The apparatus includes a vacuum chamber with a dielectric window, a generally planar coil disposed adjacent the window outside the chamber and coupled to an appropriate power source, and a plasma initiator disposed within the chamber. Once the plasma is initiated, the planar coil sustains the plasma by inductive power coupling. In one embodiment the plasma initiator is a secondary electrode disposed within the chamber and coupled to a second RF power source. In an alternative embodiment both the secondary electrode and a target pedestal are coupled to the secondary RF power source through a power splitter. In an alternative embodiment, the plasma initiator is used to ionize a portion of the process gas and provide a plasma that may then inductively couple with the planar coil. Initial ionization of the process gas may be achieved by use of an ultraviolet light source, an ultraviolet laser, a high voltage power source such as a tesla coil, or an electrical arc forming device such as a spark plug. A further aspect of the invention concerns introducing optical energy of preselected frequencies or wavelengths into a semiconductor processing plasma to induce changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma.
Images(4)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(13)
I claim:
1. A method of forming a plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of a preselected wavelength, wherein characteristics and composition of the reactive species within the plasma are altered;
wherein the preselected wavelength of the optical energy is in a range corresponding to an absorption spectra of a plasma input gas mixture that is absent from an absorption spectra of a desired reactive gas species.
2. A plasma generating apparatus for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising:
a vacuum chamber;
a plasma power source to initiate and sustain a plasma in said chamber; and
an optical energy source which directs optical energy into the plasma, the optical energy being of a wavelength or frequency preselected to induce changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma
wherein the frequency is in the range of absorption bands present in an input gas mixture and absent from the reactive species.
3. The plasma generating apparatus of claim 2 wherein said optical energy source is a laser.
4. The plasma generating apparatus of claim 2 wherein said optical energy source is disposed within said vacuum chamber.
5. The plasma generating apparatus of claim 2 wherein said vacuum chamber includes a window, and said optical energy source is outside of said vacuum chamber and directs the optical energy through said window into said vacuum chamber.
6. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein the changes include changes in the absolute molar quantity of the reactive species in a gas mixture of the plasma.
7. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein the changes include changes in the ratio of natural gas species to that of either positively or negatively charged gas species.
8. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein the changes include changes in the ratios of neutral to ionized species.
9. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein the changes include varying the character of the reactive species in the plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer without directly varying the conditions of the plasma.
10. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein the frequency is in the range of absorption bands present in the input gas mixture and absent from the reactive species.
11. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein the frequency is in a frequency range which disassociates forms of carbon-based gas mixtures used in plasma processing of semiconductor wafers, resulting in the formation of new reactive gas species.
12. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein said introducing includes controlling the position and energy density of a beam of the optical radiation with respect to three mutually perpendicular axes.
13. A method of changing the reactive species within plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer, comprising the steps of:
initiating a plasma; and
introducing into the plasma optical energy of preselected wavelength or frequency and thereby inducing changes in the composition or character of reactive species within the plasma;
wherein said introducing includes altering the concentration of the reactive species with respect to time in the semiconductor wafer processing.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to methods and apparatus for producing low pressure plasmas suitable for use in semiconductor device processing. More particularly, the present invention concerns methods and apparatus for igniting and sustaining low pressure plasma discharges.

DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART

A variety of semiconductor device processing techniques include exposure of a semiconductor wafer to some form of plasma. Semiconductor wafer etching, passivation, and deposition processes, for example, typically involve exposing the semiconductor wafer to a plasma formed from some appropriate process gas. The plasma is normally formed at low pressures by the transfer of kinetic energy from excited electrons within the plasma to the molecules of the process gas through individual collisions between the electrons and the gas molecules. Energy is usually imparted to the electrons from a power source by capacitive coupling, inductive coupling, or both. Capacitive coupling relies on the generation of an electric field within the plasma to accelerate the electrons, while inductive coupling additionally involves the use of an oscillatory magnetic field to excite the electrons. Inductive coupling also restricts the linear motion of the electrons with the resultant effect of improving plasma containment and density.

Typically processing of a semiconductor wafer with a plasma is performed in a partially evacuated chamber. Considerable effort has been directed to enhancing the transfer of energy from electrons within the plasma to the molecules of the process gas, while minimizing the effect of the electrons and the ions on the semiconductor wafer itself. One common form of capacitive energy transfer, for example, involves the application of a radio frequency (RF) electric field between two parallel plates disposed within the plasma chamber and oriented parallel to the wafer. This approach, however, suffers from a number of disadvantages. At low operating pressures a substantial portion of the energy imparted by the electric field to the plasma is typically dissipated through collisions with the structure of the plasma chamber, or collisions with the silicon wafer itself. Because of these collisions with the wafer, limitations are imposed on the operating conditions of the process to avoid harm to the semiconductor. The semiconductor wafer may also be adversely affected by increases in thermal temperature, a further consequence of electron and ion collisions with the wafer. Thus, plasma processing techniques relying on the application of an RF electric field to a plasma are usually limited to certain pressure ranges, commonly above about 0.01 torr, and are typically employed only in combination with the application of a very high frequency RF electric field.

To increase the efficiency of plasma generation by capacitive coupling, microwave resonance type plasma generators have been developed, employing ultra high cavity frequencies on the order of 2.45 gigahertz. These high frequencies increase the likelihood of transferring electron energy to the process gas molecules, rather than the plasma chamber or the semiconductor wafer, by decreasing the oscillatory path of the electrons. Another approach, termed electron cyclotron resonance, employs a controlled magnetic field to induce a circular electron flow path within the process gas. Still another approach to capacitively-coupled plasma generation employs a large and uniform magnetic field oriented parallel to the surface of a semiconductor wafer in combination with a high frequency RF field oriented perpendicular to the semiconductor wafer. The combination of these two fields imparts a cycloidal flow path to the electrons, thus increasing the probable distance travelled by the electrons before collision with the chamber or the wafer.

As noted above, inductively-coupled plasma generating systems primarily employ oscillating magnetic fields to impart energy to electrons within a plasma chamber. Inductively coupled systems are typically configured much like a transformer, with one coil of the transformer located outside the plasma chamber, and with an electron stream within the plasma forming the second coil of the transformer as the electrons travel in a generally closed path through the process gas. One form of conventional inductively-coupled plasma generator is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,948,458 to John Ogle ("the '458 system"). This generator normally provides a plasma deemed suitable for a variety of semiconductor wafer processing methodologies. The '458 system includes a chamber with a dielectric window and a planar coil disposed outside the chamber adjacent the window. A resonant RF current is induced in the planar coil, which in turn produces a magnetic field within the chamber to create a stream of circulating electrons, and thus a plasma, in a plane parallel to the exterior coil. While generally considered suitable for the plasma treatment of semiconductors over a relatively broad range of operating pressures, initial ignition of a plasma in this system may be difficult at pressures in the low millitorr range. In applications where a lower process pressure is desired, the plasma must first be initiated at a higher pressure and then reduced to a lower operating pressure. There still exists a need, however, for a plasma generator capable of creating highly uniform plasmas over a broad range of operating pressures. The present invention fulfills this need.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Broadly, and in general terms, the present invention provides a plasma generator suitable for processing semiconductor wafers across a wide range of operating conditions, including process pressures in the low millitorr ranges below five millitorr. In one embodiment the plasma generator of the present invention includes a vacuum chamber having a dielectric window, a generally planar coil disposed outside the chamber adjacent the window, and means for initiating a plasma discharge within the chamber at low pressures. The inventors have determined that the conventional methodology of increasing the quantity of the process gas within a plasma chamber to pressures sufficiently high to initiate a plasma discharge, and then lowering the pressure to a desired operating range, may be unsuitable for some semiconductor wafer processing applications. The inventors have determined the existence of a variety of process applications in which exposure of a semiconductor wafer to a plasma for a short period is desired. In such instances, degradation of the semiconductor process may result from use of the conventional procedure of initiating a plasma at a higher pressure and then reducing the operating pressure to a desired range. If the operating pressure is reduced too rapidly, the plasma may extinguish, resulting in a loss of the silicon wafer. Typically the chemical processing being performed by plasma exposure cannot be restarted with sufficient precision to accomplish the desired processing within tolerances. Reduction of the operating pressure at a sufficiently slow rate to avoid loss of the plasma, however, may preclude optimum processing of the semiconductor wafer, and additionally reduces control over the plasma processing step.

The plasma generating apparatus of the present invention includes apparatus suitable for initiating a plasma discharge within the vacuum chamber at operating pressures in the low millitorr range, despite inadequate capacitive or inductive coupling between the process gas and the generally planar coil. In one embodiment, the plasma generator of the present invention includes a secondary electrode disposed within the vacuum chamber and electrically coupled to a second RF power source disposed outside the chamber. In operation, a desired operating pressure is achieved within the vacuum chamber of the plasma generator and RF power applied to the planar coil disposed outside the vacuum chamber so as to establish a highly uniform and intense magnetic field within the chamber adjacent the dielectric window. RF power is also delivered to the second electrode to increase the energy of existing free electrons. The secondary electrode may be coupled to the planar coil disposed outside the vacuum chamber, the grounded walls of the vacuum, or a support pedestal on which the semiconductor wafer resides.

In an alternative embodiment separate radio frequency power sources may be coupled to both the wafer support pedestal and to the second electrode so as to enhance capacitive coupling between the second electrode and the wafer support pedestal. In another alternative embodiment, a single radio frequency power source is coupled to both of the second electrode and the wafer support pedestal through a power splitter. A phase delay may be introduced between the power splitter and either of the second electrode or the wafer support pedestal to achieve optimum capacitive coupling.

In yet another alternative embodiment, the plasma generator of the present invention includes the use of a device suitable for ionizing some of the process gas within the vacuum chamber so as to provide a low density plasma that may then inductively couple to the magnetic field generated by the generally planar coil disposed exterior to the vacuum chamber. In one embodiment, the vacuum chamber is provided with a window that is transmissive to ionizing radiation, such as ultraviolet light. An ionizing light source, such as an ultraviolet laser or a broad band light source such as a flash lamp is then employed to ionize some of the process gas within the vacuum chamber and provide a low density plasma for inductive coupling with the planar coil disposed exterior to the vacuum chamber.

In an alternative embodiment, an output electrode of a tesla coil is disposed within the vacuum chamber. In this latter embodiment, some of the process gas is ionized by the formation of an arc between the tesla coil rod and the grounded walls of the vacuum chamber. In still another embodiment of the present invention, a pair of conductive electrodes are disposed within the vacuum chamber and coupled to a high-voltage source exterior to the chamber to again ionize some of the process gas within the vacuum chamber by the formation of an electrical arc between the electrodes.

A further aspect of the invention concerns apparatus and methodologies for varying the reactive gas species in a semiconductor processing plasma without also altering directly the plasma conditions themselves. More specifically, a further aspect of the invention concerns the introduction of optical energy at preselected wavelengths so as to alter desired aspects of the plasma. These aspects may include one or more of the absolute molar quantity of the reactive species in the gas mixture, the ratio of natural gas species to that of either positively or negatively charged gas species, or the composition of the reactive species themselves.

In accordance with this aspect of this invention conventional apparatus employed in the processing semiconductor wafers are modified to include an appropriate source of optical energy. This optical energy source may be disposed either within the plasma chamber, or alternatively, exterior to the chamber. In the latter instance a window of appropriate optical transmissivity is further provided to allow introduction of the optical energy into the plasma. Still further, the optical energy may be introduced into an input gas mixture upstream from a semiconductor wafer chamber in applications where the desired reactive gas species is formed downstream from the site of plasma formation.

In a further embodiment of the apparatus of this aspect of the invention, an optical beam may be scanned in two or even three orthogonal axes so as to write a track in the volume of the plasma or across portions of the surface of the semiconductor wafer. This configuration thus accommodates significant alterations in the concentration of active species within the volume of the semiconductor wafer processing plasma both with respect to the position of the alterations and with respect to the time at which these alterations are produced.

The novel features which are believed to be characteristic of the present invention will be better understood in the following detailed description, considered in connection with the accompanying drawings. It should be expressly understood, however, that the drawings are for purposes of illustration and description only and are not intended as a definition of the limits of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic side view illustrating a first embodiment of the plasma generator of the present invention for initiating a plasma through capacitive coupling;

FIG. 2 is a schematic side view of alternative embodiments of the plasma generator of the present invention for initiating a plasma through capacitive coupling;

FIG. 3 is a schematic side view of an embodiment of the plasma generator of the present invention for initiating a plasma through ionization of some of a process gas; and

FIG. 4 is a schematic side view of further embodiments of the plasma generator of the present invention for initiating a plasma through ionization of some of a process gas.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to the figures, and more particularly FIG. 1, there is shown in schematic side view one preferred embodiment of a low pressure plasma generating apparatus shown generally at 10 of the present invention. As illustrated, the apparatus 10 includes a vacuum chamber 12 having a gas inlet line 14 and a vacuum exhaust outlet line 16. The vacuum chamber 12 is preferably composed of a nonconductive material, such as an anodized metal grounded by an appropriately configured ground line 18.

Disposed within the vacuum chamber 12 is a target pedestal 20 for supporting one or more semiconductor wafers 22. One surface of the vacuum chamber 12 opposite to and generally parallel with the pedestal 20 defines an aperture within which a dielectric window 24 is disposed. This dielectric window 24 may be composed of quartz or some other suitable dielectric material such as various nonconductive ceramics known in the electromagnetic arts. A generally planar coil 26 is further disposed outside the vacuum chamber 12 adjacent the dielectric window 24. This coil 26 provides the primary source of power to sustain by inductive coupling a plasma within the vacuum chamber 12. The dielectric window 24 provides an atmospheric seal with the vacuum chamber 12 that is generally transmissive to an electromagnetic field generated by the coil 26. To enhance the uniformity of the plasma generated within the vacuum chamber 12 the coil 26 is generally planar, with deviations in flatness of preferably, but not necessarily, less than one to two-tenths of the diameter of the coil. The coil 26 may further form a spiral configuration or, alternatively, a series of interconnected concentric rings. The diameter of the coil 26 is typically dependent upon the size of the plasma desired. In one embodiment a coil 26, intended for sustaining a plasma of sufficient size to treat a single semiconductor wafer, has a diameter of thirteen to eighteen centimeters with five to eight spiral turns or concentric rings provided to produce a relatively uniform plasma within the vacuum chamber 12 that extends essentially across the entire diameter of the coil 26. Preferably, the coil 26 is composed of a highly conductive metal, such as copper, having a sufficient cross-sectional diameter to accommodate currents of up to approximately thirty amps.

Power is provided to the coil 26 by a radio frequency (RF) power source 28. The power source 28 may be inductively coupled to the coil 26 by a matching circuit 30, or by some other appropriate circuitry known in the electrical arts. In one embodiment, this matched circuit includes a primary coil coupled to the RF power source 28 and a secondary loop coupled to the inner and outer ends of the coil 26 in series with a variable capacitor. As is known in the electrical arts, the primary coil and secondary loop may be orientable with respect to one another to allow for circuit loading at a desired operating frequency of the power source 28. The variable capacitor in series with the secondary loop further permits adjustment of the resonant frequency of the circuit to match the frequency output of the power source 28. The RF power source 28 preferably, but not necessarily, has a power output of about 500 watts in the megahertz frequency range with an RMS voltage output of about 70,000 volts.

Typically a plasma sustained by the apparatus 10 illustrated in FIG. 1 and discussed above will have a velocity vector oriented generally parallel to the surface of the semiconductor wafer 22 within the vacuum chamber 12. In order to impart a component to the velocity vector of the plasma species that is oriented perpendicular to the surface of a semiconductor wafer 22, the pedestal 20 may be coupled to a separate RF power source 32 through an additional matching circuit 34.

In operation, the vacuum chamber 12 is pumped to a desired operating pressure with a process gas being introduced into the vacuum chamber 12 through the inlet 14. A plasma is then initiated within the vacuum chamber 12. Inductive coupling between the coil 26 and the process gas can sustain the plasma once it is initiated. Plasma initiation typically cannot be achieved by inductive coupling between the coil 26 and the process gas at pressures in the low millitorr range. The inventors have determined, however, that damage may be imparted to semiconductor wafers intended for plasma treatment at pressures in the low millitorr range if a plasma is first initiated at higher pressures and then reduced to a desired operating pressure in the low millitorr range, for example, two to three millitorr.

As the operating pressure within the vacuum chamber 12 is reduced from an initial ignition pressure to a desired process pressure, care must be taken to avoid causing the plasma to extinguish. If this occurs, the wafer is effectively ruined and must usually be discarded. The inventors have found that plasma processing of a semiconductor wafer is typically dynamic in nature, and can not be successfully resumed if interrupted before completion. The inventors have further determined that substantially greater control of plasma reaction processing can be achieved by initially igniting the plasma reaction at pressures in the low millitorr range. By way of example, the present invention provides an apparatus for exposing a semiconductor wafer to a low pressure plasma in the two to three millitorr range for a period of thirty seconds or less. Conventional apparatus could not normally provide for plasma processing at such a low pressure and for such a brief exposure period. Typically conventional apparatus would require plasma ignition at a higher pressure that normally could not be reduced to the desired low millitorr range within the desired exposure period. Reducing the pressure to a desired low millitorr range more rapidly would likely increase the risk of the plasma extinguishing, with a resultant loss of the semiconductor wafer.

The present invention provides several alternative mechanisms for igniting a plasma within the vacuum chamber 12 at pressures in the low millitorr range, and well below those at which the coil 26 alone can ignite a plasma. In the embodiment of the present invention illustrated in FIG. 1, a secondary electrode 40 is included within the vacuum chamber 12 and coupled by a matched circuit 42 to a second radio frequency power source 44. This secondary electrode 40 is intended to increase the energy of free electrons that are already present in the process gas primarily by capacitive coupling. The inventors have determined that the extremely high resistive character of the dielectric window 24, and the concomitant voltage drop across this window, usually prevents sufficient capacitive coupling between the coil 26 and a process gas disposed within the vacuum chamber 12. By addition of the secondary electrode 40, however, sufficient capacitive coupling may be achieved by introduction of suitable RF energy from the second radio frequency power source 44 to achieve plasma ignition at pressures in the low seven millitorr range, and in fact, within desired operating ranges of two to three millitorr.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention capacitive coupling between the secondary electrode 40 may be enhanced by use of the separate RF power supply 32 coupled to the semiconductor wafer support pedestal 20 through the matching circuit 34. In operation, both the RF power source 44, coupled to the secondary electrode 40, and the separate RF power source 32 coupled to the wafer pedestal 20 are activated. The relative phase of the RF outputs from these two RF power sources, however, is initially set approximately 180 from one another. This phase separation can be selected to optimally enhance the capacitive coupling between the secondary electrode 40 and the pedestal 20, thus substantially increasing the energy transferred to free electrons already present in the process gas. Once a plasma is initiated within the vacuum chamber 12, the RF power source 44 coupled to the secondary electrode 40 may be deactivated and the phase of the separate RF power supply 32 coupled to the wafer pedestal 20 may be altered to optimize coupling between the pedestal 20 and the generally planar coil 26 disposed exterior to the vacuum chamber.

In a further alternative embodiment of the present invention, illustrated in FIG. 2, a single RF power supply 60 may be coupled to both the pedestal 20 and the secondary electrode 40 through a power splitter 62. A signal delay 64 may also beneficially be included between the power splitter 62 and either the pedestal 20 or the secondary electrode 40. Preferably the power splitter 64 is variable so that the relative ratios of RF power provided to the pedestal 20 and the secondary electrode 40 may be varied. In operation, a desired operating pressure of the processing gas is obtained in the vacuum chamber 12 and the generally planar coil 26 disposed exterior to the vacuum chamber 12 is energized. RF power is then provided to the secondary coil 40 and the pedestal 20 to ignite a plasma within the process gas. The signal delay is then preferably used to vary the relative phase of the RF power being applied to the secondary electrode 40 and the pedestal 20 so as to maximize capacitive coupling between the two elements. Once a plasma is initiated within the process gas, RF power flow to the secondary electrode 40 may be terminated. The output of the RF power supply 60 may then be configured to optimize operation in cooperation with the generally planar coil 26.

An alternative embodiment of the present invention, illustrated in FIG. 3, employs a different approach to plasma ignition at pressures insufficient for plasma ignition by the coil 26 alone. In accordance with this aspect of the present invention, a plasma is first formed in the process gas by another ionizing mechanism. Once the process gas has been ionized, there is sufficient plasma species present to support inductive coupling with the primary coil 26. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 2, the process gas is initially ionized by introduction of an ionizing light beam from a source 48 exterior to the vacuum chamber 12. As illustrated, the vacuum chamber 12 is further provided with a window 50 that is transmissive to the ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In certain instances where the desired operating pressures for the vacuum chamber 12 are substantially below seven millitorr, further ionization of the process gas within the vacuum chamber 12 may be achieved by employing an ionizing light source.

Referring to FIG. 4, there is shown yet another alternative embodiment of the present invention. As discussed above in connection with the ultraviolet light source, plasma ignition is achieved by partially ionizing a portion of the process gas within the vacuum chamber 12 through some mechanism independent of the generally planar coil 26 that is used to sustain the plasma through inductive coupling. In one embodiment, this partial ionization of the process gas may be achieved by a tesla coil 52 having a high power output rod 54 disposed within the vacuum chamber 12. In operation, a high voltage at the end of the output rod 54 caused by operation of the tesla coil 52 would cause arcing in the process gas-between the electrode 54 and the conductive walls of the vacuum chamber 12 grounded by line 18. As an alternative to the use of a tesla coil to provide electrical arc break-down within the process gas, a pair of electrodes having an extremely high potential between them could be employed by way of example, as further illustrated in FIG. 4, a spark plug 58 including electrodes 60 and 62 could be coupled to an appropriate high voltage source (not shown) to achieve a spark across the electrodes 60 and 62 by conventional means.

A further aspect of the invention concerns varying the character of the reactive gas species in a plasma for processing a semiconductor wafer without also varying the plasma conditions directly. Conventional semiconductor processing techniques involving exposure of the semiconductor wafer to a process plasma normally require variations in the plasma conditions to induce changes in the character of the reactive gas species. For example, the absolute quantity of reactive gas species present in the plasma, or the ratio of neutral species to ionize species in the plasma are both normally dependent upon several factors, including (but not limited to) the composition of the input gas mixture, the plasma pressure and the magnitude of the radio frequency or magnetic power input to the plasma. Each of these factors, however, are also known to adversely effect the character of the semiconductor processing.

Various semiconductor processing characteristics, such as for example, the straightness of the plasma etched into the semiconductor wafer, the selectivity of the plasma gases to the materials distributed over portions of the semiconductor wafer, and the cleanliness of a semiconductor wafer etch are normally dependent on the absolute molar quantity of the reactive species in the plasma gas mixture and the ratios of the active components of the plasma. Thus, alterations in the absolute quantity of reactive species or in the ratio of the active plasma components to achieve a desired semiconductor wafer processing characteristic (such as straightness of etch) normally can only be achieved through conventional processes by alterations in the plasma condition (such as pressure or power input) that are also known to influence the desired semiconductor wafer processing characteristic. Changes in the character of the plasma intended to improve the semiconductor wafer process are thus achieved by conventional processes only through methods that are also known to cause other adverse effects in the plasma process.

In accordance with a further aspect of the present invention, however, variations in the composition of reactive species, as well as variations in the absolute quantity of reactive species in the plasma gas mixture and the ratios of active components in the plasma may be achieved by methods and apparatus other than direct variations of plasma pressure, changes in the composition of the plasma input gas, or direct alteration of the radio frequency or magnetic power input into the plasma. More particularly, in accordance with this aspect of the invention optical energy of a selected wavelength or frequency is introduced into the plasma to achieve variations in either or all of the absolute molar quantity of reactive species, composition of reactive species, and the ratios of neutral to ionized species.

This aspect of the invention takes advantage of differences in quantum mechanical energy absorption selection rules for the absorption of optical energy compared to the absorption of RF energy so as to disassociate gas molecules of the type that are normally employed in semiconductor plasma processing. By way of example, optical energy in the two to five micron range of the infrared spectrum are known to be characteristic of stretching the vibrations between single and triple molecular bonds. Similarly, optical energy in the eleven to sixteen micron range of the infrared spectrum are known to induce strong aryl, out-of-plane deformation vibrations in C--H bonds. This introduction of a sufficient magnitude of optical energy in these and higher energy ranges are known to break these bonds. It is believed application of the well known Beer-Lambert Law of Absorption may be employed to control the result in concentration of components obtained by breaking these bonds.

In accordance with the method of this aspect of the invention, the introduction of optical energy of appropriate wavelength or frequency in a process plasma created or sustained by otherwise conventional methodologies accommodates the formation of plasma gas mixtures with chemically reactive compounds that can be selected and quantitatively controlled by the amount of both RF and optical energy that is added to the plasma. Thus, various desired characteristics of the reactive species, as well as the precise composition of the reactive species, may all be altered without resorting to gross variations in the characteristics of the plasma itself.

For the majority of, semiconductor wafer processing techniques employing plasma processing, it is currently believed the concentration of reactive species may be increased by comparing absorption spectra of the input gas mixture with absorption spectra of the known reactive species created by the plasma process. Optical energy in the frequency range of absorption bands that are present in the input gas mixture but absent from the reactive species are expected to be the desired frequencies for creating an additional quantity of a known reactive species. Introduction of optical energy in these disparate absorption bands into the plasma should therefore create additional quantities of the reactive species within the plasma. Alternatively, entirely new classes of reactive species may be created by introducing optical energy of differing frequencies into the plasma. As noted above, optical energy in the two to five micron range may be employed to disassociate most forms of carbon-based gas mixtures, such as CF4 or C2 F6, employed in plasma processing of a semiconductor wafer, resulting in the formation of entirely new reactive gas species.

Apparatus Suitable for altering desired characteristics in the reactive species of a semiconductor processing plasma in accordance with the aspect of the invention discussed immediately above is illustrated in FIG. 3. In this embodiment, however, the optical energy source 48 need not necessarily generate optical energy in the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum and, similarly, the window 50 need not necessarily be transparent in the ultraviolet. In this embodiment, the optical source 48 preferably generates optical radiation in a portion of the spectrum known to be responsible for inducing the desired characteristics in the reactive species. The optical source 48 thus could generate optical radiation in the visible, or even in the infrared portion, of the optical spectrum, depending on the changes to the reactive species that are desired.

The optical radiation source 48 may be of any source generating sufficient radiation at a desired frequency or wavelength. Thus, the source 48 may be a laser, or may be one or a variety of ultraviolet, visible or infrared broad band sources that is further provided with an appropriate filter so as to limit the frequency of optical radiation directed into the process plasma to a desired spectral band.

In accordance with a further aspect of the present invention, also illustrated in FIG. 3, beam steering apparatus 70 may also be included to alter the position of an optical radiation beam directed towards the semiconductor wafer processing plasma. Beam steering apparatus capable of altering the location of a beam with respect to two orthogonal axes are well known in the optical arts and are available from a variety of vendors including Newport Research Optical in Newport Beach, Calif. The beam steering apparatus 70 may further be provided with focusing elements (not shown) so as to varying the energy density of the optical radiation along the axis of propagation. Further use of beam focusing elements permits control of the position and energy density of the optical radiation beam with respect to three mutually perpendicular axes.

The present invention provides a means of operating an inductively-coupled plasma generating device capable of creating a highly uniform plasma across a wide range of operating pressures. As shown above, the present invention avoids disadvantages found to occur in conventional practices of initiating a plasma by raising the pressure of a process gas to a pressure sufficient to support plasma ignition and then gradually lowering the pressure to a desired operating range. It will, of course, be understood that various modifications and additions can be made to the preferred embodiments of the present invention. For example, the optical radiation source illustrated in FIG. 3 could, in any of the embodiments discussed above, be alternatively disposed within the vacuum chamber 12, or located upstream of the vacuum chamber 12 remote from the semiconductor wafer. In either instance the need for the optical window 50 would be eliminated. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention should not be limited by the particular embodiments discussed above, but should be defined only by the claims set forth below and equivalence thereof.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4557819 *Jul 20, 1984Dec 10, 1985Varian Associates, Inc.System for igniting and controlling a wafer processing plasma
US4664938 *May 6, 1985May 12, 1987Phillips Petroleum CompanyMethod for deposition of silicon
US4804431 *Nov 3, 1987Feb 14, 1989Aaron RibnerMicrowave plasma etching machine and method of etching
US4863559 *Nov 17, 1988Sep 5, 1989Texas Instruments IncorporatedMethod for forming local interconnects using chlorine bearing agents
US4877642 *Jul 2, 1987Oct 31, 1989U.S. Philips Corp.Microwave cavity resonator as reaction space
US4891118 *Nov 23, 1988Jan 2, 1990Fuji Electric Co., Ltd.Plasma processing apparatus
US4946537 *Jun 26, 1989Aug 7, 1990Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co., Ltd.Plasma reactor
US4948458 *Aug 14, 1989Aug 14, 1990Lam Research CorporationRadiofrequency resonant current induced in a planar coil; uniform flux; semiconductor wafer processing
US4957590 *Sep 5, 1989Sep 18, 1990Texas Instruments IncorporatedMethod for forming local interconnects using selective anisotropy
US5006760 *Jan 9, 1987Apr 9, 1991Motorola, Inc.Capacitive feed for plasma reactor
US5032221 *May 7, 1990Jul 16, 1991Eastman Kodak CompanyWith methane-hydrogen plasma
US5078823 *May 18, 1990Jan 7, 1992Defitech S.A.Plasma reactor
US5171401 *Jun 4, 1990Dec 15, 1992Eastman Kodak CompanyUsing methane, hydrogen and argon mixture, generating metal hydrocarbons
US5183775 *Jan 23, 1990Feb 2, 1993Applied Materials, Inc.Method for forming capacitor in trench of semiconductor wafer by implantation of trench surfaces with oxygen
US5272417 *Nov 13, 1990Dec 21, 1993Tadahiro OhmiDevice for plasma process
US5277751 *Jun 18, 1992Jan 11, 1994Ogle John SMethod and apparatus for producing low pressure planar plasma using a coil with its axis parallel to the surface of a coupling window
US5310452 *Jul 20, 1992May 10, 1994Fujitsu LimitedPlasma process apparatus and plasma processing method
US5346578 *Nov 4, 1992Sep 13, 1994Novellus Systems, Inc.Integrated circuit fabrication
US5468296 *Dec 17, 1993Nov 21, 1995Lsi Logic CorporationApparatus for igniting low pressure inductively coupled plasma
Non-Patent Citations
Reference
1 *Nyaiesh et al., U.S. Statutory Invention Registration H566, Jan. 3, 1989.
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US5964949 *Mar 5, 1997Oct 12, 1999Mattson Technology, Inc.ICP reactor having a conically-shaped plasma-generating section
US5983828 *Oct 8, 1996Nov 16, 1999Mattson Technology, Inc.Apparatus and method for pulsed plasma processing of a semiconductor substrate
US6312555Mar 20, 2000Nov 6, 2001Ctp, Inc.Thin film electrostatic shield for inductive plasma processing
US6379576Nov 16, 1998Apr 30, 2002Mattson Technology, Inc.Systems and methods for variable mode plasma enhanced processing of semiconductor wafers
US6395641May 16, 2001May 28, 2002Mattson Techonolgy, Inc.Apparatus and method for pulsed plasma processing of a semiconductor substrate
US6536449Nov 16, 1998Mar 25, 2003Mattson Technology Inc.Semiconductor wafer residues left after photoresist ashing and/or reactive ion etching processes; halogen containing gas (fluorocarbon) and ammonia and substantially no oxygen
US6551447Nov 6, 2000Apr 22, 2003Mattson Technology, Inc.Inductive plasma reactor
US6566272Jul 23, 1999May 20, 2003Applied Materials Inc.Method for providing pulsed plasma during a portion of a semiconductor wafer process
US6650678 *Feb 24, 2000Nov 18, 2003Canon Kabushiki KaishaLaser oscillating apparatus
US6794301Jan 18, 2002Sep 21, 2004Mattson Technology, Inc.Pulsed plasma processing of semiconductor substrates
US6853142Nov 4, 2002Feb 8, 2005Zond, Inc.Methods and apparatus for generating high-density plasma
US7232767Mar 18, 2004Jun 19, 2007Mattson Technology, Inc.Slotted electrostatic shield modification for improved etch and CVD process uniformity
US7604716Jul 22, 2004Oct 20, 2009Zond, Inc.Methods and apparatus for generating high-density plasma
US8413604Nov 28, 2006Apr 9, 2013Mattson Technology, Inc.Slotted electrostatic shield modification for improved etch and CVD process uniformity
US8552650 *Jul 12, 2008Oct 8, 2013Imagineering, Inc.Plasma formation region control apparatus and plasma processing apparatus
US20100186670 *Jul 12, 2008Jul 29, 2010Imagineering, Inc.Plasma formation region control apparatus and plasma processing apparatus
US20110234019 *Aug 14, 2008Sep 29, 2011Tmms Co., Ltd.Method and device for transporting, distributing and managing electrical energy by remote longitudinal coupling in near field between electric dipoles
WO2004042774A1 *Oct 29, 2003May 21, 2004Zond IncMethods and apparatus for generating high-density plasma
Classifications
U.S. Classification315/111.21, 156/345.48, 156/345.38, 315/111.51
International ClassificationH01J37/32, C23C16/517
Cooperative ClassificationC23C16/517, H01J37/3233, H01J37/32339, H01J37/321, H01J37/32009
European ClassificationH01J37/32M12B, H01J37/32M, H01J37/32M12D, H01J37/32M8D, C23C16/517
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jun 6, 2014ASAssignment
Effective date: 20070406
Owner name: LSI CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: CHANGE OF NAME;ASSIGNOR:LSI LOGIC CORPORATION;REEL/FRAME:033102/0270
May 8, 2014ASAssignment
Free format text: PATENT SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNORS:LSI CORPORATION;AGERE SYSTEMS LLC;REEL/FRAME:032856/0031
Effective date: 20140506
Owner name: DEUTSCHE BANK AG NEW YORK BRANCH, AS COLLATERAL AG
Jun 2, 2009FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 12
Jan 10, 2005FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8
Jan 24, 2001FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Nov 13, 1995ASAssignment
Owner name: LSI LOGIC CORPORATION, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PASCH, NICHOLAS F.;REEL/FRAME:007753/0591
Effective date: 19951107